Before Thursday’s preseason game against the Detroit Mike Brown revealed to the media that Anthony Bennett’s conditioning battles were partially attributed to the first overall pick dealing sleep apnea as well as having asthma.
In Jason Lloyd’s storyfor the Akron Beacon Journal, Brown explains the big man’s poor conditioning is due to a culmination of factors.
“It’s a culmination of a lot of things,” Brown said. “The shoulder, he’s been out for awhile, he’s got asthma, we’re throwing a lot at him. He’s probably never played this hard against this competition in his life. He’s got sleep apnea and some other things, he likes to stay up late. As a young person, that can affect you in a lot of ways the next day.”
Brown went on to comically describe how just watching Bennett run the floor makes him tired.
“Every time I watch him he’s (gasping),” Brown said. “It makes me tired, so I try not to look at him. I tell him, ‘If you need a sub, just tell me. Otherwise I’m not going to look at you.”
Conditioning is always a concern for a big man coming into the NBA, couple that with the fact Bennett was reportedly 18 pounds overweight this summer due to being limited from his off season shoulder surgery and the alarm bells start ringing for me.But is the guy we’ve watched lumber up and down the floor this preseason simply getting back into shape, or is this an issue that will plague him throughout his career?
A quick Google search of “athletes with asthma” returns results of Jerome Bettis, Dennis Rodman, and JaVale McGee — none of which ease my feelings going forward with Bennett.
Looking back at Bennett’s college stats and he only played 27 minutes a game last season in the Mountain West Conference. The Mountain West is rising the ranks of college basketball conferences, but the intensity and pace are nowhere near what Bennett will face in the NBA.
It’s way too early to write Bennett off as another Cleveland athlete whose career will be plagued with a mysterious injury or condition, but how his conditioning comes along is now near the top of what I’m watching for with Bennett — right behind if he grows his hair back out, if he flexes after monstrous dunks, and how many threes he drains. But in all seriousness this is something will have to be monitored.
In Grantland’s Annual League Pass Rankings, Bill Simmons questions the Cavs’ selection of Bennett.
“Let’s decide a date when we’re officially no longer allowed to say the word “Oladipo” to a Cleveland fan.”
While I’m a big Simmons’ guy, reading this angered me as I’m almost certain Simmons hasn’t seen the bright spots we’ve seen watching Bennett this preseason. I doubt he watched Bennett showcase his raw strength, ball handling, post moves, and range in the fourth quarter against Orlando. And I doubt he saw the threes he confidently hit against Detroit or this steal and thunderous throwdown.
Still, part of me wonders if Simmons is right. Oladipo may have been the safer pick at number one. There’s no doubt Bennett has upside, but with that upside comes risk. It feels unfair to judge Bennett on conditions that are out of his control, but the reality of it is asthma and sleep apnia will make it that much tougher to succeed in the NBA. As I’m not overly worried yet, the fact we’re used to seeing motorcycle accidents, staph infections, and blood clots derail some of Cleveland’s best athletes scares me into thinking that asthma could easily be the next line on that list.
(Photo: David Manning, USA TODAY Sports)